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the Millennial harvest, the prophets and forerunners of the Millennial morn.
II. What are the signs in the sphere of Government ? The doctrinal aspect of the question has been dwelt upon at length because doctrine lies at the foundation of everything pertaining to the church. It is a doctrine that whatsoever Christ commands is to be observed by the church; whatsoever He has not commanded, either expressly or impliedly, is forbidden to her; and that is the doctrinal cornerstone of the true church. What remains to be said must be compressed into small compass.
What is the fundamental principle of government in comparison with which the church's purity or corruption, in that sphere, is to be determined? I have no hesitation in answering, The Representative Principle. That is a principle, it deserves to be noticed, of very wide employment in the moral government of God. It runs through the whole of it, in all its aspects. It was employed in man's first religion. Adam was the representative of the race. It is employed in redemption.
Christ is the representative of the redeemed. It pleased God to employ this principle of representation, with necessary adaptations, in the constitution of the visible church. The view is maintained by some that the church is simply a monarchy, for Christ is her King and He, of course, is not elective. The true view is that on the divine side the church is a kingdom with Christ as her sole and absolute King, but, on the human side, she is a free, representative commonwealth. Her divinely given constitution creates her a body of free electors, empowered by its suffrages to choose its rulers. They are, therefore, representative rulers. When elected they constitute a parliament, characterized by
the absolute parity of its members, with no visible dictatorial head. The church thus, on the plane of a human society, reflects that great representative principle which has been incorporated in all religion. This is the touchstone of the church's purity in government. It excludes a one-man's government and consequently rules out prelacy in all its forms. The extent to which the Protestant Church departs from this principle is the extent to which it fails to be conformed to the Scriptures; nor ought it to be forgotten that it was just here that the early church commenced its career of corruption which terminated in the Papacy. The simple Presbyter became the Prelate, and the Prelate became a Pope.
But, moreover, even where, as in the Presbyterian Church, this representative principle is professedly employed, it is, to a very large extent, perverted by the suppression of the parity of the rulers and the subordination of one class to another class. What is called the lay element is held to be inferior to what is termed the clerical. The distinction has no place in Scripture. It is a corrupt device of man. Jesus Christ created by His will the government of His church, and any departure from that will is an affirmation of man's will in disobedience to it, and is an ominous sign in the church's sky.
III. What are the signs of the times in the sphere of Discipline? “Discipline is the exercise of that authority and the application of that system of laws which the Lord Jesus Christ has appointed in His church." The ends which the church aims at in the administration of discipline are the glory of God, the honor of Christ, the purity and edification of the church, and the spiritual good of offenders themselves. In dispens
ing it, as the name implies, she acts not upon the principle of retributive justice. She is not a judge emitting punitive sentences. She never punishes. Reflecting the fatherly justice of God and the pastoral rule of Jesus, the good Shepherd, over the sheep of His fold, she, like a tender mother, corrects her children in order to reclaim and save them. As to the discharge of the duty of discipline, she is bound by obedience to God, obligation to her Saviour, and love for the souls committed to her care, it is evident that neglect of its performance argues a defection from conformity with the Scriptures and consequently from true religion.
To one who discerns the signs of the times, it is painfully apparent that there is a growing relaxation of the administration of discipline in the Protestant Church, and a corresponding depression in the tone of her spiritual life. Of this, two kinds of proofs will be briefly submitted.
The first is that, for the most part, the censures of the world precede and condition the censures of the church. Where the world condemns, the church condemns. Her sentences are sustained, perhaps demanded, by the verdict of society. For the most partfor there are exceptions—the church seems to be more careful to prevent her disgrace than to maintain the honor of Christ, more solicitous to keep her members than the favor of her Lord.
The second is that not only does the church condition judicial discipline upon the censures of the world, but she tolerates where the world tolerates. One or two specifications in support of this remark must suffice.
In the first place, greater and greater license is allowed by the Protestant Church to the infraction of the Sabbath law. Her members are, on God's day,
indulged in the visitation of their places of business, riding out for pleasure, boating excursions, promenades in parks, traveling on railways, going for their mail, reading secular newspapers, social visiting, engaging in business pursuits in connection with railroads, telegraph lines, express companies, and postoffices, on the plea of making a livelihood, notwithstanding the words of a crucified Saviour: “Every one that hath forsaken houses, or brethren, or sisters, or father, or mother, or wife, or children, or lands for My name's sake, shall receive an hundredfold, and shall inherit everlasting life."
In the second place, the Protestant Church is more and more conniving at participation by her members in the open, public, justified amusements of the world which in her purer days she forbade, such as attendance at theatres and at balls, dancing parties, and other vain diversions. True, she testifies against it from the pulpit; but when discipline might arrest it, she refuses to discipline. "Be not conformed to this world,” says the Holy Apostle. “Be not conformed to this world," echoes the church. But when her members conform to the world that is the end of it. She condemns by her words what she sanctions by her acts. The acts prevail. The bars of discipline are let down. The sheep go out at that gate to the world, and at that gate the world comes into the church. This evil is increasing, and is one of the most prominent signs of the times.
IV. What are the signs of the times in the sphere of Worship? I confess that upon this subject I scarcely dare trust myself to speak. The movement of our times strikes me with astonishment. There was nothing in the past about which God was so jealous as the mode of His worship. There was nothing around which He
threw guards and fences so awful as around His worship. His wrath leaped forth as a vehement flame against those who asserted their wills in His worship. He reserved to Himself the high prerogative of appointing the ways in which men should approach Him in His public worship, and instantly resented every invasion of that prerogative. But all that is now changed, we are told. We have passed under the milder sanctions of the New Testament dispensation, and more discretionary power is granted to the church. Hold! Did not Christ enjoin it upon His apostles to teach the church to observe all things whatsoever He had commanded? And does not that necessarily imply that they were to teach the church to abstain from all things whatsoever He had not commanded to do nothing which He had not commanded? Did not the apostles organize the church according to His will? Did they not appoint her whole order, including her public worship? And are we not bound by Christ's will thus expressed? Did the apostolic church know anything of instrumental music in public worship, of liturgies, of the decorations of church edifices? How come we to know them except by breaking with the apostolic order and the will of our King ?
Hearken, men and brethren! Let us take just one of these elements of innovation upon the primitive order of worship and rapidly trace its history. For 1,200 years the Christian church knew nothing of instrumental music in her public worship. In the thirteenth century its proposed introduction into the Church of Rome-corrupt as it then was-was ineffectually resisted by some of her most eminent theologians. At the reformation the Swiss Protestant Church cast it out; the French Protestant Church cast it out; the